Kostis Palamas (Κωστής Παλαμάς) was a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn.
He was born in Patras on January 13, 1859. At the age of 17, he enrolled in the Law School at Athens University, however quickly realised that law was not for him. He had already fallen in love with poetry.
From 1879 he started working as a journalist and in 1886 he published his first collection entitled ‘Songs of my Fatherland’ (Τραγούδια της Πατρίδος μου).
‘Hymn to Athena’ (Ο Ύμνος στην Αθηνά) in 1889 and ‘The Eyes of the Soul’ (Τα μάτια της ψυχής ) in 1992 followed.
Palamas was the first poet to express the national sufferings and aspirations of the Greeks, and with his lyricism, he combined Greek history, mythology and philosophy.
He was a central figure of the Greek literary generation of the 1880s and one of the cofounders of the so-called New Athenian School (or Palamian School, or Second Athenian School) along with Georgios Drosinis, Nikos Kampas, and Ioannis Polemis.
Palamas also wrote the lyrics to the Olympic Hymn, composed by Spyridon Samaras.
It was first performed at the 1896, the first modern Olympic Games in Athens.
The Hymn was then shelved as each host city from then until the 1960 Winter Olympics commissioned an original piece for its celebration of the Games, but the version by Samaras and Palamas was declared the official Olympic Anthem in 1958 and has been performed at each celebration of the Games since the 1960 Winter Olympics.
In 1887, he married Maria Valvi and they had three children: Nafsika, Leandros and Alkis.
In 1879, he was appointed secretary of the University of Athens until his resignation in 1928 as Secretary-General.
Palamas was also honoured with many distinctions including:
- The “Legion of Honor” title by the French Government in 1924
- The “Goethe” medal by the German ambassador to Athens in 1933
- The “Del la plaque del l’Ordre de la Republique” medal by the Spanish Government in 1934
- The title of Dean of the Royal Order in 1936 for his contribution in the “Letters and Art” of the Ministry of Education
- A statue of himself raised in Messolonghi in 1937
His last collection ‘The Nights of Fimios’ (Οι νύχτες του Φήμιο) was published in 1935.
Two of his famous verses:
- “This I tell you, and nothing else: Get drunk on the immortal wine of 1821”
- “The greatness of a people is not measured in acres. It’s measured with the fire in their hearts and their blood”
Palamas passed away on February 27, 1943, aged 83.
The old administration building of the University of Athens, where his office was located, is now dedicated to him as the “Kosti Palamas Building” and houses the “Greek Theater Museum”, as well as many temporary exhibitions.